FOX’s Coverage of Premier League Brings Soccer to a Whole New Audience
For Americans like myself, one of the first talking points on Monday morning in your pursuit to clear the cobwebs tends to be sports. If it’s early autumn, it boils down to either the National Football League or Major League Baseball. It could be your favorite team, a horrible officiating decision, or which player completely screwed up your fantasy weekend. People tend to be energized at this time of year towards sports.
With a work PC that needs 10 cups of coffee to fully boot, I walked down to a friend’s office to engage in this Rite of Fall. He’s a Ravens fan, they won; I’m a Bills fan, we lost; referees are horrible; we conclude our typical flapping of gums about the NFL.
Then, he says something interesting: “I was watching the Tottenham/Arsenal match…”
My ears perk up. “You did?” Now, I know that this friend loves soccer. He played in high school, college, and in a county rec league until recently. He has coached his kids’ teams for years. In fact, he spent plenty of time trying to tell me about the greatness of soccer.
The issue: He lives in an area that does not have Fox Soccer Channel or GolTV, and Saturday and Sunday mornings aren’t the best for him anyway. But an EPL match piggybacking an NFL game on a Sunday afternoon? He watched the entire match.
“Man, Tottenham has this guy on the left that is a helluva player,” he says. I respond, “Oh, you mean Gareth Bale?” And the conversation continues for a few minutes, and I’m somewhere between jazzed and surprised that we’re talking about this.
We’ve talked association football many times – 95% of the time in terms of either of our kids’ teams, and the other 5% are high profile international matches on ESPN. For a guy who is on the go, he doesn’t make much time for following social media outlets that help keep many of us informed about matches. I’ve often brought up the EPL, but without a free avenue to watch, he has never been a participant in that conversation. He doesn’t want to spend extra for a few soccer matches a week, especially when he isn’t sure he’ll have time to watch them anyway.
That’s why the EPL on FOX is perfect for him. He was even amazed when I told him that the match was on tape-delay.
We have plenty of people in America who are similar to my friend (former youth players), and it’s bound to increase over time with improving development clubs in this country. Fall Sunday afternoons are times dedicated to sports in the United States. In my mind, there is no better time to try this experiment than right after an NFL contest, when people are “vegging out,” clinging to what little remains of the weekend before recommencing the routine.
Until the day when FOX Soccer shows up on 95+% of the cable systems in America, the EPL on FOX is a brilliant intermediate. It’s been an uphill battle for soccer in this country, but this creative approach to reach a different audience with the sport is worthy of applaud. Whether it’s a teaser for people to demand FOX Soccer, or if its simply trying to deliver product to a broader consumer base, kudos to FOX for giving European soccer a chance on network television.